I’m happy to announce the launch of my project, Immigrant Imprints: Filipinx Spaces in Michigan. The site serves as a response to and exploration of the diminishment of cultural spaces amidst urban development. By following one culture’s narrative, the site tracks Filipinx American settlement and displacement in Michigan, and particularly highlights their struggle to establish and sustain cultural space, such as community centers, landmarks, murals, and other ‘imprints’ within major cities. I intended the site to be accessible for audiences seeking to learn about Filipinx history and community in Michigan, as well as for audiences seeking a more in-depth exploration of how the impact of Filipinx spaces could be read and assessed within the public sphere. Both the overview and analytical “read more” layers construct an overall narrative about Filipinx American’s limited agency in sustaining cultural space and representative voice within larger public dialogues.
After the Home page’s description of the project, users can navigate three subpages which are organized to provide a historical look at Filipinx settlement:
- “The Early Filipinxs” explores what many have referred to as the first wave of Filipinx immigrants, the government-sponsored students (Pensionados) who attended American universities. Two interactive maps allow users to click on the marked locales and neighborhoods wherein many of the students from the 1910s and 20’s resided while going to school. Each pinned address also reveals the student’s name, which college or university they attended, and their majors. Because there is limited information on the lives of these students, the page asks visitors to pursue questions regarding settlement trends and the stability of residence alongside knowledge of the developed spaces that reside there now.
- “Community Spaces” jumps to the 1960s-70s by following the three-decade long development of Michigan’s only Filipinx community center. A description and interactive timeline of the Philippine American Cultural Center of Michigan (PACCM) gives users a glimpse into the amount of time, effort, and multi-generational dedication behind the establishment of a cultural center, as well as the sorts of challenges that impede this process.
- The subject of “Murals” is the community artwork dedicated to hate crime victim Vincent Chin. Descriptions of the Vincent Chin mural in Detroit’s struggling Chinatown and mural at Grand River Creative Corridor reveal Asian Pacific Islander communities’ attempt to voice beliefs about local identity, justice, and hopes for inclusion and growth within the city. The page concludes with the murals’ fates and an analysis of their impact.
The project has been a joy to work on this last year, and I’m excited to extend other features of the site during the summer. I plan to introduce further theoretical considerations for reading the impact of material and place rhetorics on the public sphere, populate the interactive maps with more Pensionado addresses, and potentially include more historical documents and interviews from PACCM.
As Los Angeles, the city with the highest Filipinx population, has finally pushed to document and preserve Filipinx American spaces through their Office of Historic Resources, we are increasingly realizing the danger that ethnic spaces face in light of urban development across major cities. Cultural groups have played significant roles in the history and development of cities, and by understanding the power and voice behind ethnic spaces, we can use their economic and cultural advantages to democratically shape local development and identity.